Yesterday, Texas opened up debate on a bill that requires a photo ID at the polls.
[S]everal Senate sources who have looked at [the bill] say it’s a more stringent requirement than the one on the table in 2009. In 2009, they were talking about requiring photo ID or two forms of non-photo ID; the 2011 bill does not have that non-photo ID option. It does, however, have an exemption from the photo ID requirement for those who are at least 70 years old at the start of 2012 and who have their voter-registration card when they go to vote.
If such a bill passes, Texas will join nine other states that require a photo ID -- Florida, Georgia, Hawaii,
Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota -- as well as 18 states that require a non-photo ID at the polls.
TAP contributor Tova Wang recently wrote about the proposed Texas law -- and the push from other newly elected Republican legislatures to pass similar bills. As she pointed out, these voter-ID laws address an exceedingly rare type of vote fraud and mainly end up disenfranchising minority voters. For many, it may seem that requiring an ID at the polls is no big deal, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 12 percent of eligible voters nationwide don't have ID, and "the percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income voters, and students." Many of these groups, of course, lean heavily Democratic.
In some cases, eligible voters can only obtain a valid ID at the under-resourced DMV, often cited as the epitome of government inefficiency (though I've had nothing but excellent experiences with the D.C. DMV). These requirements are coming at a time when young people go to the the DMV less frequently because they are driving less.
As if to drive home the point that these laws have less to do with preventing voter fraud and more to do with shaping the electorate, the Texas law contains an exemption for voters over 70 -- a demographic that skews decidedly to the right.
-- Kay Steiger